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Mayor wants Northeast False Creek to “push the green agenda”

June 3rd, 2009 · 12 Comments

It’s a difficult story to follow but the Saga of Northeast False Creek is a fascinating one and will continue to develop because there are so many interests at play in that area, the big stretch of land that faces the Olympic village across False Creek.

There’s a tussle over whether the Vancouver Art Gallery will indeed land there. The four very influential developers there — Aquilini, Concord, Canadian Metropolitan, and the provincial government — have been arm-wrestling the city for months over how much residential they’ll be allowed to put in, how much density they can add, and how much view cone space they’ll be able to slice into. (Check my Globe story tomorrow for more on one of these issues.)

If you read the report and/or listened to the council debate on Tuesday, you’ll be interested to learn that Raymond Louie and company are thinking about reviving their original idea for Southeast False Creek of a neighbourhood with one-third social housing, one-third affordable, and one-third regular market. That’s still evolving.

And the latest to weigh in is Mayor Gregor Robertson, who wants to see that area to take all the new green building ideas that were incorporated into the village and do even more of them in Northeast False Creek.

In a rare interjection into the public debate at council, Robertson made a point of adding at the end that he is worried the current fledgling plan doesn’t push green far enough.

“I am a little concerned that we are not advancing the sustainability objective or the platform of Southeast False Creek,” he said. “The intention was that that would be the new base for development. Our challenge is to take the next step beyond that. I see Northeast False Creek as the opportunity to take it to the next level and showcase it as a large-scale development site such as this.”

Of course, astute followers of council are probably already thinking what I was thinking as I listened to this. Which is: But, but. But Southeast False Creek is land that was owned by the city, where they could dictate the terms pretty freely.

Yes, Millennium Developments/the Maleks are building a green project that has all kinds of elements never before seen in Vancouver. But they knew that would be required when they bid on the project and presumably bid on the land accordingly. Or not, but at any rate, they knew they were going to have to follow a whole new set of rules in exchange. AND they’ve complained that the green requirements are what fuelled some of their cost overruns. AND I don’t know a developer in town who sees what’s happened at the Olympic village as any kind of model for doing anything green — not at this point, anyway.

But the mayor appears to be saying that developers will be willing to comply with these new, more demanding green requirements from the city because they’ll make money.

He acknowledges that higher standards “will be more for the landowners and developers to factor into their pro formas.” But he points out that projects elsewhere, in Portland and Victoria, at Dockside Green, are seeing people pay a premium to live in environmentally advanced projects. He’s hoping that the Olympic village will see buyers willing to see that same kind of premium.

I’d be interested to hear people weigh in on this one. I personally would pay more for a place that I thought had been designed to be more sustainable. But not sure if that’s what’s proving true in the marketplace.

And I await further developments on the affordable-housing front in this area.

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